Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Serie A matches canceled indefinitely

DEADLY VIOLENCEItalian soccer authorities took drastic action following the death of a policeman during clashes between Catania and Palermo fans on Friday night

AFP , ROME

All Italian soccer matches were suspended on Friday after a 38-year-old policeman was killed when violence flared during and after the Serie A match between bitter Sicilian rivals Catania and Palermo.

The policeman was named as Filippo Raciti, and another officer was believed to be seriously injured.

Hundreds of people were hurt as fighting continued after the game.

As a result of the tragedy, the Italian soccer federation announced that all matches, professional and amateur, scheduled for this weekend would be canceled and that the suspension was likely to be indefinite.

Next week's friendly international between Italy, the World Cup winners, and Romania in Siena was also called off.

The federation's chief Luca Pancalli said that the suspension of the matches could last longer and the matter will be discussed next week.

"One day is not sufficient," said Pancalli. "Without drastic measures, we can't play again."

"We will immediately set up a commission to discuss the situation between sport and politics. It's not possible to carry on like this. If this is football, then I'm stopping everything," he said.

He said that he would meet with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi tomorrow.

"Football in Italy must stop and take stock. Enough is enough," said Pancalli.

"I cannot find the words to describe a 38-year-old man who lost his life in such a way. All the football authorities I spoke to agreed that we had to stop everything. This is completely unacceptable," he said.

Sergio Campana, the head of the players association in Italy, demanded a longer suspension.

"I think that faced with these events, football should stop for a year and see if we can change our whole approach to sport," he said.

Raciti was hit in the face by a homemade bomb thrown from the crowd.

He died at the Garibaldi Hospital in Catania.

Palermo won the game 2-1 but the highly-charged Sicilian derby was overshadowed by the violence.

Later Friday, nine Catania fans including four minors, were arrested, reported the ANSA news agency.

However, none were believed to be in connection with the death of Raciti.

Friday's game had already been brought forward because of fears over public safety. But even an early kick-off did nothing to quell the unrest.

The game was suspended after an hour when tear gas, used by police to halt the trouble, drifted onto the field.

Adding to the problems was the fact that Palermo supporters were unable to get into the Stadio Massimino until the second half.

Palermo took the lead after 55 minutes when Andrea Caracciolo scored from a pass from Mark Bresciano.

The goal coincided with the arrival of the Palermo fans. It was also the cue for the trouble to start.

Reports claimed that fireworks were lobbed into the area where the Palermo supporters were sitting. They fought back and tear gas made it impossible for play to continue.

The two teams fled the pitch for the dressing room with the game suspended for 30 minutes.

Within 60 seconds of the restart, Catania equalized through Fabio Caserta.

Palermo's winning goal in the 83rd minute was controversial with David di Michele finding the back of the net although Catania claimed the ball came off the striker's arm.

Catania president Antonio Pulvirenti blamed Palermo fans for the violence.

"Clearly the incidents were provoked by the Palermo fans when they entered the stadium," he said.

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